Can you think of the last time you saw something and you just had to tell your friends about it?
Do you remember having a great experience at a restaurant and later on tweeting about it?
This is, essentially, word of mouth marketing (WOMM). It's an organic way of spreading information which utilizes components of viral marketing, though unlike viral marketing, it spreads by more natural channels.
Word of mouth is a free form of advertisement or promotion (just one reason it's so important). It's shared by customers and triggered by an event the customer experiences. This event is something beyond what's expected.
In this post, we'll look more into the details of word of mouth marketing - how you can use it, why you need it and why it's so important in the modern communicative landscape.
How are Word of Mouth Marketing and Referral Marketing different?
It's all about creating a buzz. It's a passive way of gaining a following. The more you interact with people the more likely your name will spread.
Think of the snowball effect - you start off with a small, interesting post on Facebook. That post impresses a couple people, then those people spread the word. Before you know it that one post is all over. It's about creating mega brand recognition.
Referral marketing is marketing that focuses on targeting a specific person, and is intended to encourage them to refer their friends. Referral marketing (and other referral type marketing) is a segment of WOMM, but it's a more proactive way of generating clientele, as you have to actually control the referral process and track the process of conversion.
Instead of doing a mass shout-out, the idea of referral marketing is more personal. Referral marketing is more about creating a bond with specific people. That way they'll refer friends and family.
Why is WOM Marketing Important?
Consumers trust their friends. This is why word of mouth marketing is the most valuable source of marketing.
According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than they do advertising - this stat alone solidified the word of mouth use case.
WOM also doesn't stop after just one interaction. One person will tell another, and that person will someone else, then that person will continue the chain and spread the word further, making it a great vehicle for exposure and distribution - if used well.
Of course, the same is true in reverse - negative news can spread just as fast, but the essential benefit of WOM in the connected era is personal endorsement, which is not only more readily available, but is seen as significantly more valuable to modern consumers.
How to Use WOMM
Connect with consumers, as opposed to 'collecting' them.
Sure you might have millions of social media followers, but you have to establish connection with those users to generate any tangible benefit. If your audience is not interested in you, they're not likely to help you grow. They're collecting dust and clogging your real fan base.
You want real fans and supporters. The more passionate your fans are about you, the more likely they'll share you. As noted, the passing of information through word of mouth is powerful in influencing others, it has a way of reaching parties that it might not have been able to do otherwise.
This is even more relevant when considering the rise of ad blockers and increasing ad blindness, particularly on digital platforms.
Here are four tips to help maximize your WOM potential.
1. Make Yourself Interesting
Think of it as social currency - share what makes you look fun/good/interesting. This entices sharing.
Consumers feel more confident in the information they're sharing when they're contributing something that's worth talking about.
For example, research has shown that Facebook users are more likely to share content that educates their network, and/or makes them look good and reinforces a certain image of themselves. You can tap into such behavioral trends to benefit your messaging.
2. Create a Trigger
Can you tie yourself into other things that your consumers do or use?
As explained by LiveChat:
"You can design products that are triggered by the environment, and create new triggers by linking your products and ideas to prevalent cues within that environment".
If people remember you, they'll continue to talk about you. Sounds like a great way to start a successful referral program.
3. Provide value
If you establish yourself with a few people, they'll share the experience with friends - you may not remember the last time you shared a mediocre restaurant or service with someone, but you'll no doubt be able to remember an amazing experience or event.
For example, you might have gone to a great Japanese restaurant and had a good night out. You know a co-worker who loves sushi - you relate your experience to them
Sharing valuable information makes you valuable. Great, unique customer experiences, along with having a great product, can help increase your value, and thus, your WOM potential.
4. Provoke Emotion
Creating emotion goes hand in hand with creating value. People are more likely to share something that promotes high arousal, and people are more likely to share experiences in which they had some sort of emotion towards.
No one shares an 'OK' experience. People share the things that make them happy or upset.
Think about Yelp - the reviews are either one extreme or the other - hardly ever does someone take the time or effort to talk about their experience if it was average.
Other Terms That Fall into Word of Mouth Marketing
Buzz Marketing - Also known as astroturfing. This focuses on getting consumers to create and spread conversation about a product. This grows company awareness through the use of online traffic. Influencers create the 'buzz' - they're the ones spreading the word about a specific product/service. This is usually done via tools that are attention-grabbing, like videos and humor.
Blog Marketing - Promoting a product or service via a blog. In this instance, the blogger is the influencer or brand ambassador. Bloggers become word of mouth marketers, word travels to their followers. The blogger provides reviews and ad space to their favorite brands/affiliations. The blogger's followers are then inclined and share the information with friends, based on their established relationship with them.
- Social Media Marketing - Content on social media has a way of reaching people outside of the original group following. As noted, shared content has a higher value when shared by someone you know and trust. This type of marketing is the hub of marketing, especially referral marketing.
These are just some of the critical elements and considerations of word of mouth marketing. Used well, it can be a powerful way to spread your brand messaging - and with users now able to communicate faster and more broadly than ever before, it's an important aspect to consider in any outreach process.